Mike Bennie


SUNDAY, JUL 17 2011 ·  www.winefront.com.au




Ruggabellus is an exciting addition to Australia’s advancing wine scene. Abel Gibson has worked in and around some of the Barossa’s best with stints at big and small wineries, but has popped out the other side with a lighter, fresher handle on his red wines than tradition and Barossan wine architecture normally preaches. All his red fruit goes into older, seasoned oak. There is minimal handling, and sulphur is added in minute amounts (‘but I am not making natural wines’, Abel says). Natural ferments kick things off and surprisingly, for the perceived weight of the wines (lighter), the fruit is judiciously ripe coming off the vines.

While GSM and variations of the Rhone-inspired beast are the order of the day, the lifted, expressive, fruit driven personality of these wines is as individual as Abel’s beard is shaggy. GSM here however is more a measure to put creativity and individuality in bottle – they are also wines that let stems carry the fruit long and fresh in the wines. These are thoughtfully put together wines with an emphasis on drinkability, fruit verity and youthful appeal.

Abel Gibson’s version of his career is best put in his words – ‘Respect and history’ was learnt at Penfolds, ‘art and tradition’ at Rockford, ‘intellect and detail’ from Chris Ringland, ‘bunch and mystery’ from Charlie Melton, ‘provenance and balance’ from my father at Gibson and most recently and quite importantly ‘belief’ from Pete and Magali at Spinifex – without their encouragement ‘Ruggabellus’ would in all likelihood have remained an idea to this day.

Edelie Eden Valley Riesling 2009 (13.2%, $25, 624 bottles produced): Fruit is picked later than many in the Eden Valley for higher natural sweetness of berry. The wine is fermented on solids. Wet pebbles, rain on warm tarmac, citrus fruits and the faint hint of stemmy greeness. The wine opens with brittle acidity but plunges into soft acidity and a plume of slippery, sweet citrus fruit. Finishes cool and very brisk with floral tones. Plusher than expected and a lively interpretation of the variety. 92 points, 2011-2016+

Fluus 2010 (58% Mataro, 27% Grenache, 11% Syrah, 4% Cinsault; 13.7%, $25, 1776 bottles produced): Earth, smoke, sweet small red berries. LIfted spice of cumin and cinnamon. Very bright and slippery but forged into shaped with savoury complexity. Slate and greenery appear, but the fresh, juicy appeal of the wine wins the palate over. Stems carry the wine longer, but drinkability is paramount here. A perfect ‘bistro wine’. 91 points, 2011-2016

Timaeus 2009 (69% Grenache, 16% Mataro, 15 % Syrah; 13.6%, $40, 804 bottles produced, 56% whole bunch): Very pretty, lifted rose water characters then earthy, savoury aromatics with pencil shavings, rosewood and brambly berries enlivening the perfume. Crunchy texture immediately, yet still fresh and juicy, with no slack here as graphite and minerals tuck the fruit of the wine in neatly. Has that machine oil texture and finishes very washy and light, but a rising grip and lingering presence of firm red berries finishes. GSM by another name. Great wine. 93+ points, 2011-2018+

Efferus 2009 (85% Mataro, 9% Grenache, 6% Syrah; 14.3%, $40, 1488 bottles produced, 22% whole bunch): Smoke and animale with clod earth and garam masala. A wine that shrieks feral but within the presence of a compote of dark, unctuous fruit. The texture is slippery, almost satiny with figs, dates and gamey complexity to the fore. Bright plummy fruit shouts out then evaporates leaving a little orange juice acidity and a very fresh, gently gripping tannin and stem driven finish. Elegance personified with a funky twist. Superb and genuinely exciting to drink. 95 points, 2011-2018+

Archaeus 2009 (75% Syrah, 16% Mataro, 9% Grenache; 14%, $40, 984 bottles produced, 19% whole bunch): Toasty, smokey characters and grilled meats. Aromatics also push the raspberry fruits of Barossan Shiraz with some dried fruit and cake spice sweetness for good measure. Slightly feral but the most juicy of the ‘premium’ trio. Plushly textured with perky spice and a very penetrating, pervasive presence in the mouth. More red berry and game in the palate with a touch of char and then lingering, jubey fruit sweetness. 92+ points, 2011-2018+


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